November 6, 2015 - Markets, growth in the north, the ever-popular Power Panel and dust management were just a few of the highlights at the Wood Pellet Association of Canada’s annual conference, which took place from Nov. 3 to 5 in Halifax.
By Andrew Snook
Approximately 200 people filled the Cunard Centre to check out the WPAC 2015 conference, which featured a variety of speaker panels, keynote speakers, a day of tours and an industry trade show.
WPAC’s Gord Murray and Michele Rebiere kicked off the first day of sessions by welcoming everyone to Halifax and introducing Allan Eddy, Associate Deputy Minister of Natural Resources for the Government of Nova Scotia, who gave the welcoming address.
The first session, “Shifting Markets,” featured a global outlook presentation from Fiona McDermott (Hawkins Wright); Bill Strauss of FutureMetrics discussing the North American pellet market and strategy to decarbonize the American power sector; Mike Burns, Assistant Deputy Minister, Government of Northwest Territories (GNWT), talking about developments in the Northwest Territories (NWT); and Gilles Gauthier of the European Pellet Council, who discussed European Heat Markets.
Mike Burns, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Government of Northwest Territories
Growing market in N.W.T.
Burns discussion about biomass use in the N.W.T. included a variety of projects already constructed or in the process of being built throughout the territory.
Since the first commercial wood pellet boiler system was installed in Yellowknife in 2007, N.W.T. has invested in an additional 21 biomass heating projects. Burns said these projects have offered energy savings of about 35 per cent, compared to running on traditional heating methods such as heating oil, diesel-fuelled electricity generation and propane.
The N.W.T. uses about 21,000 tonnes of wood pellets annually with most of the supply coming from Northern Alberta. Transportation accounts for a major cost for the pellets, since supply routes are typically challenging and vary greatly across the territories. Some areas do not have year-round road access so planes are sometimes needed to fly in shipments.
To help grow consumer awareness and support the use of biomass in the territory, the GNWT recently formed a biomass association. Established pellet markets in the region have helped create consumer confidence in pellet availability, but quality of the pellets is vital.
“The Government of the Northwest Territories requires premium pellets for government-installed boilers,” Burns said.
With the biomass heating appliances being installed as primary heat sources for facilities such as hospitals and prisons in areas where winters can bring temperatures as low as -55C, poor quality pellets that could create boiler maintenance issues or shutdowns aren’t an option, he told the crowd.
The first wood pellet plant in N.W.T. is currently in the design phase.
FutureMetrics’ William Strauss
FutureMetrics’ Strauss said he expects the pellet market to grow in Canadian provinces that are reliant on electricity and heating oil.
The big advantage of using wood pellets is its price stability in comparison to other fuel sources, despite the recent drop in prices of heating oil and propane, he explained.
On the export side, Strauss explained that the U.S. Clean Power Plan could present opportunities for the Canadian pellet market in the future by working with the pulverized coal industry to lower emissions by converting coal-powered generating stations into biomass co-firing facilities that are fuelled by wood pellets.
Fiona McDermott of Hawkins Wright offered the crowd a global pellet outlook. In her presentation she broke down the various leaders in the world for wood pellet consumption.
North America (21 per cent), Italy (20 per cent) and Germany (14 per cent) lead current residential pellet usage, while the U.K. (46 per cent), Sweden (13 per cent) and Denmark (12 per cent) lead in the consumption of industrial wood pellets.
McDermott also forecasted that the Dutch market would rise to 3.25 million tonnes by 2020, and that Sweden’s carbon tax increases in January 2016 and January 2018 could increase the use of biomass process heat and district heating. However, the heating oil market will end up being the main determining factor for growth in the heating pellet market.
Gauthier discussed Europe’s role in the global pellet market.
About 65 per cent of wood pellets consumed in Europe are used to produce heat, about 18.8MT; compared to 7.8MT used for industrial use. Leaders in pellet consumption in Europe are Italy, Germany, Sweden, France and Austria.
Gauthier said that all five European leaders’ pellet use varies. For example, Italy is heavily reliant on importing wood pellets while Germany and Austria create enough to meet their needs.
EPM Consulting’s John Bachynski
A series of safety-related sessions also took place today, including dust explosion protection strategies from Fike’s Jeff Mycroft; a discussion on Lakeland and Burns Lake Inquest verdicts and implications from B.C. Forest Safety Council’s Rob Moonen; Pinnacle’s Scott Bax discussing how to create a safer pellet sector; and EPM Consulting’s John Bachynski discussing how to manage combustible dust.
Over the last 28 years there have been about 3,500 reported combustible dust explosions in North America, Bachynski told the crowd. He added that 38 per cent of the explosions by industry happen in the wood products industry with 42 per cent of the explosions by material coming from wood.
“That’s about one every three days,” said Bachynski.
Power Panel moderator Scott Jamieson
The popular Power Panel featured Groupe Savoie’s Jonathan Levesque, Drax Power’s Deborah Keedy, Scotia Atlantic Biomass’ Michele Rebiere, Pinnacle Renewable Energy’s Vaughan Bassett and Ontario Power Generation’s Brent Boyko fielding questions from a packed Cunard Centre and moderator Scott Jamieson.
One of the questions fired at the panel related to the recently formed cabinet of new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It was, “Does having a Minister of Environment and Climate Change make a difference for our sector?”
“Just having a Minister of Environment and Climate Change says a lot,” Boyko responded.
Another question fired at the panel asked to what extent the panel expects the big drop off of industrial pellet consumption in 2027 will affect the Canadian market?
Drax’s Keedy responded by stating that the U.K. has projects that extend beyond 2027, and as coal systems are taken offline in the country that there will be new opportunities for the biomass sector.
Other highlights from WPAC 2015 included tours of the Port of Halifax, Shaw Resources pellet plant, Scotia Atlantic Biomass pellet plant and a wood pellet quality certification workshop.
There were also presentations by Deborah Kelly discussing sustainability at Drax Power; Chris Wiberg of BEL presenting on certification implications of U.S. New Source Performance Standards; Gord Murray discussing biomass sustainability requirements in the Netherlands; Maine Energy Systems’ Dutch Dresser discussing how to grow Canada’s pallet heating market; Daron Thomas’ presentation on installing commercial pellet boilers in Atlantic Canada; Groupe Savoie’s Jonathan Levesque discussing pellet projects in New Brunswick; and Ilaria Peretti of Turboden discussing ORC Turbogenerator usage in the pellet industry; logistics and port presentations by Rayburn Doucett (Belledune Port Authority), Patrick Bohan (Port of Halifax) and Chris Walsh (Fednav); a “Threats and Opportunities” panel featuring Brodie Govan (Asian pellet competition), Arnold Dale (Russian and Baltic pellet competition), Tim Gammell (U.S. competition), Arne Erik Kristiansen and Brent Boyko (black pellet use in Ontario); in addition to a keynote speech from former Minister of Natural Resources of Nova Scotia, Zach Churchill.
WPAC 2016 will take place from September 20 to 22, 2016 in the Vancouver area.